4 Things to Know About Learning to Fly-Fish in Aspen this Fall

Though best known as a world-renowned skiing destination, Aspen’s valley is as ideal for skiing as for fishing. Fall is one of the best times to hit the river, with the spectacular backdrop of yellow autumn foliage against the mountain landscape and clear blue skies, not to mention some of the finest fishing of the year.

Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley are home to the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan Rivers, both designated as Gold Medal waters (able to produce 60 pounds of trout per acre and at least 12 trout longer than 14 inches per acre), which means amazing fishing. For your next trip to Aspen, leave your skiing gear at home and use these tips from Ali Margot as told in Elliman Magazine to plan your fly-fishing adventure.


1. Go with a Guide


Credit: Justin Moore/Taylor Flyshops

Going fly-fishing with a guide is like skiing untracked powder all day long. Cam, my guide from Taylor Creek Fly Shop, did most of the work. He selected the flies and tied them. He untangled my line when it got snagged on rocks and sticks. He knew what part of the river would be the best to fish. He showed me how to do a simple roll cast, flicking the rod from one direction to the other. Whenever I got a fish on my line, he’d calmly instruct me on exactly what to do to release it safely back into the river.


2. Learn the Lingo


Credit: Alex Irwin

Before you can walk the walk (or fly the fly), you should learn to talk the talk. Here are a few common terms you should know.

CATCH AND RELEASE—Fish are caught gently, handled rapidly and quickly released back into the water.

NYMPHING—The use of immature insects to catch fish, or imitations of immature insects, otherwise known as flies. Fly-fishers want insects in this state because that’s what the fish feed on.

ROLL CAST—As a beginner, this forward-only casting technique is made in one direction, so it’s a lot less likely your line will get tangled, it’s more accurate and easier to learn.


3. Be Patient


Credit: Fertnig

Fly-fishing involves patience, coordination and grace. You have to tie impossibly small flies onto a line with what looks like dental floss and cast without tangling the line in bushes, trees or rocks. There’s also a lot of knowledge required: what types of flies the fish are biting on and how to tie them; the behavior and habits of trout; river geography and water flow and knowing where fish might be easy to find. And technical understanding of when and how to use an arsenal of equipment. This is where the expertise of a guide comes in who can instruct you on exactly what you need to do to catch a fish. It might take all day, but the feeling you get when you hook your first fish will make your heart swell.


4. Enjoy the River from a new Perspective


Credit: Alex Irwin


Aside from catching fish, tromping through the river was my favorite part—it lent a perspective that can’t be achieved from the banks. The river became a world unto itself, where the only thing that existed were the fish, the sound of the rushing water, and a dizzying kaleidoscope of trees, mountains, and sky.


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